It took Tuition.io co-founder and Columbia University alumnus Brendon McQueen 12 separate loans totaling $120,000 to pay for his Ivy League education and less than one month after graduating to realize that trying to manage this situation was going to be a nightmare.
McQueen is not alone. More than two thirds of all college graduates exit school with some form of education debt, be it public or private. After nearly a year in development, McQueen’s Los Angeles-based startup Tuition.io (formerly Binksty) launches a massive product redesign today to help these recent graduates better manage and optimize their student loans.
“A lot of people hear student loans and stop listening, because it’s such a pain point,” says the CEO.
With multiple types of loans, loans regularly being sold between lenders, and third party servicers standing between borrowers, the task of effectively managing this debt is unnecessarily complicated. Combining this with a sagging economy and an absence of clear information on repayment options creates a potentially disastrous situation which many have pointed to as the source of the next “mortgage crisis.”
Through both its website and mobile app, Tuition.io offers borrowers a single dashboard to visualize and track all of their multiple student loans together. Users can view detailed information including servicer, monthly payment, total amount owed, projected repayment date, and total amount paid over the life of a loan.
The redesigned platform now uses algorithms to analyze each borrower’personal financial situation — based on income and other information provided by the user — and suggest the best available repayment options in each unique case. In some cases this is no special plan. In others its consolidation, forbearance, or income-based repayment.
Objectives can range from achieving the lowest possible monthly payment to minimizing the interest paid over the life of a loan. In all cases, users can dynamically visualize the effects of each repayment plan on all of these variables. When ultimately choosing an option, Tuition.io provides all the required paperwork and instructions for completing and submitting it.
“What it all means is that you don’t have to learn all of the terminology or create any of your own spreadsheets, but simply answer a few quick questions, select the most suitable option offered by our system and get back to your life,” says McQueen.
The one thing Tuition.io does not offer (yet) is payment processing, although the founders see this as an opportunity in the future. Currently, users receive reminders and payment instructions through the platform, but must pay their servicer manually as they would in any other circumstance.
McQueen and his co-founder Steve Pomerantz are giving all the right answers around business model. The platform is currently free with the pair focused at the outset on reaching and helping as many student borrowers as possible. The pair plans to solve the revenue problem further down the road, although they’re adamant user data and privacy are a big concern. While this will rule out some of the more obvious business models, like targeted advertising, should the site prove popular, they could easily offer a freemium subscription model and other ancillary services.
The student loan problem is a big one in the US, with 37 million borrowers reportedly holding more than $1 trillion in debt. More disturbingly, 38 percent of these borrowers are in some form of forbearance or default. Tuition.io is already managing more than $60 million in student loans spanning 130 Universities — including the US News & World Report Top 25.
Tuition.io is currently a member of the Fall 2012 class of the LaunchpadLA accelerator. The company previously raised undisclosed angel funding in the “low six figures” range from a list that includes Accel Partners venture advisor and Amplify managing director Richard Wolpert.
Information inequality has created billions of dollars of wealth for those issuing and servicing loans. At the same time, student loan debt is growing as fast as any category of personal borrowing. Tuition.io is well positioned to bridge this gap and solve the very real needs of the most indebted generation of college graduates in history.